CORE RESEARCH PROJECT: Enhancing Mobility Among African American Older Adults Through Physical Activity

FUNDING SOURCE: CDC 1993-1998

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Patricia A. Sharpe, PhD, MPH

This study examined the effect of a program of low intensity physical activity on mobility and psychosocial outcomes of African American older adults in a rural community. The intervention included a series of flexibility, balance, and range-of-motion exercises and gentle movement to music that will be implemented at congregate meal sites. The educational strategies were based on social cognitive theory, and aimed to enhance self-efficacy to safely perform routine activities of daily living and improve mobility skills. The program also encouragde the development of peer leadership capacities among the participants.

The study employed a quasi-experimental design. An intervention and a comparison group (n=60 per group) were assessed at baseline and six and twelve months post-intervention on several performance-based and self-report functional measures as well as depression, self-efficacy, and other psychosocial and demographic variables. A process evaluation was conducted to examine implementation integrity, participation, program appeal, and peer leadership capacities.

The study was unique in that it provided rare data on a community-based program of physical activity for low income rural elders who are at risk for functional dependence. Formation of an advisory group of participants to work closely with the research team aided in tailoring the program to be culturally appropriate. The inclusion of a training component for peer leaders promoted long term program sustainability if study hypotheses were supported.